Bling ring: The happy couple, Mariah Carey and James Packer, and her 35-carat, £8 million rock
A fading showbiz star with monstrously expensive tastes and an oafish billionaire. As celebrity couplings go, who could ask for a more perfect match.
Mariah Carey claims she found a kindred spirit when she met James Packer at a film premiere in the ski resort of Aspen two years ago.
It is possible to imagine the scene: the world’s most demanding diva and one of the world’s most over-indulged playboys, not giving two hoots that anyone else in the cinema wanted to watch the film as they noisily bounced their planet-sized egos off each other.
As the pair have announced they’re engaged, wags looking for what Hollywood calls a ‘uni-name’ — in the tradition of Brangelina [Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt] and TomKat [Tom Cruise and his ex-wife Katie Holmes] — have cruelly picked ‘Pariah’.
Not surprising, considering that Mariah has such a reputation, known for having 11 bodyguards surround her restaurant table so diners can’t see her eat.
She also insisted on a £50,000 antique table, covered with silk cloth and flown in from New York, to sign autographs in a London store while sitting on £1,000 throne surrounded by roses and butterflies.
Packer, on his side, combines at times a disastrous business career with a car-crash love-life that might make any less headstrong fiancée than Carey, 45, think twice.
Last summer, she became a noticeable fixture on the Packer superyacht off the coast of party island Ibiza as she sported a black swimsuit that exposed a prominent cleavage.
Just weeks after media tycoon Rupert Murdoch and Jerry Hall did their bit for Australian-U.S. relations by announcing their engagement, 48-year-old Packer declared his own with the sort of vulgar opulence for which both he and Carey are famous.
Packer, the son of media tycoon Kerry Packer, rounded up some friends for a ceremony in New York, then theatrically got down on one knee and presented Carey with a 35-carat ring.
Valued at £8 million, the diamond and platinum monster is the size of singer Beyonce and TV reality star Kim Kardashian’s engagement rocks combined, and bigger than the 33-carat ring that actor Richard Burton gave Elizabeth Taylor.
Apparently, there is no hindrance to this schmaltzy union in the fact, as has been reported over the weekend, that both Carey and Packer are still married to previous partners: the singer to rapper and actor Nick Cannon, and the casino tycoon to the model and singer Erica Baxter.
Bull-necked and jug-eared, the beefy billionaire may not win any beauty contest but, true to the immutable laws of celebrity and money, he surely has what it takes to please a lady like Mariah Carey.
Incidentally, that film they watched together when they met was Hercules (a 3D action fantasy adventure based on the classical legend), and some might suggest that taking on Mariah Carey is a task worthy of the Greek hero.
Worth an estimated $520 million, she is one of the most successful female singers in history and certainly behaves like it.
She once arrived at a London hotel at 2am and refused to get out of her limo and step inside until the management had rolled out a red carpet lined with white candles. She was renting 15 rooms for her entourage so, naturally, the hotel rushed to oblige.
The New Yorker, born and raised in poverty to a white Irish-American mother and a black Venezuelan father, once said that anyone who sees her as ‘just the princess’ misunderstood ‘who I am and what I have been through’.
Certainly, there’s a lot of princess behaviour to forgive. She reportedly always travels with her own personal bed linen and insists a new lavatory seat and gold taps are installed in any hotel suite which she is using.
It has been claimed she demands a certain type of mineral water — not to drink but to bathe in — and insists that her dressing room must provide puppies, kittens, Cristal champagne and an attendant to dispose of her used chewing gum.
Valued at £8 million, the diamond and platinum monster is the size of singer Beyonce and TV reality star Kim Kardashian’s engagement rocks combined
Last year, her expenses included £28,000 on grooming her eight dogs and £70,000 to buy up an entire first class compartment on a BA plane so she could fly to Cannes in privacy.
‘I guess I am a diva in many ways,’ she has said in something of an understatement. ‘I can be difficult and a little bit rigid about what I want.’
A month before she met Packer, Damion Young, her former producer and confidant, revealed she had become a lonely character living ‘inside a bubble’ where fawning acolytes met her every whim.
If she wasn’t taking flights in her Gulfstream jet on the slightest whim, she would be tucked up at home in Manhattan, he said, avoiding watching or reading anything in the media because she was terrified of finding anything critical of her.
So what kind of man dares enter this bear-pit of stratospheric expectations? According to Forbes, Packer is Australia’s fourth richest man, with a fortune of £3.3 billion; the third generation of a dynasty of business tycoon bruisers that started with his grandfather, media tycoon Sir Frank Packer.
James’s father, Kerry, built on the media empire, but in Britain he became mired in controversy in the 1970s as he tried to shake up the world of cricket by paying many of its top stars to join his breakaway league.
A domineering sports fanatic, Kerry tried to toughen up 14-year-old James by making him practise batting against a baseball pitching machine that hurled cricket balls at him at 120mph.
When a former Test cricketer that Packer Snr had hired to coach his son dared to turn the machine down a notch, a furious Kerry switched it back up to maximum, yelling: ‘What are you trying to do, turn him into a wuss or what?’
His father has always cast a long shadow over James, who, according to a recent biography, spent years desperately trying to impress a father who considered him too soft and too easily led.
There is some evidence to suggest his dad was right.
For example, Packer Jr managed to lose an estimated £120 million of the family fortune in a disastrous telecoms venture.
The nightmare reportedly pushed James to the brink of a nervous breakdown and he temporarily found solace in Scientology, the controversial church whose figurehead, Tom Cruise, was a close friend.
His father died in 2005 so wasn’t around to see James lose far more (believed to be half his £3.5 billion inheritance) by investing in mega-casinos around the world just before the global financial meltdown in 2008 crushed the industry.
She said yes! The duo have been virtually inseparable since going public with the romance last year
Despite having some success in casinos and Hollywood film-producing, he has never managed to rid himself of his playboy image.
Dyslexic like his father, he reads so little that he reportedly didn’t even get more than a third of the way through the definitive biography of his father.
Instead, he preferred to indulge his penchant for busty brunettes, which led him to date a succession of glamour models and minor league pop singers.
In the 1990s, girlfriends included Jennifer Flavin, the U.S. model who is now married to Sylvester Stallone.
In the UK, he was also linked to Ulrika Jonsson, the Swedish-born weather girl, and her breakfast show replacement, Tania Bryer.
In 1999, he married for the first time. His bride was Jodhi Meares, a bikini model, and their £6 million wedding included a performance by Elton John. Packer described Jodhi as his ‘soulmate’ but the marriage ended in 2002.
Five years later, he wed singer/model Erica Baxter. They had three children but split up in 2013.
For her part, Mariah Carey has also had her share of break-ups, and a driving ambition that has threatened to engulf her.
Her first husband was her manager, Sony music executive Tommy Mottola, but the 1990s marriage lasted just five years.
She was later linked with men as varied as the British TV presenter Jamie Theakston and a Latin singer, Luis Miguel.
In 2001, she was admitted for psychiatric care after suffering an ‘emotional and physical breakdown’ that she attributed to work pressures.
Her behaviour had become so bizarre that she made a surprise appearance on a U.S. TV show, wheeling an ice cream cart on stage and proceeding to rip off her clothes to the obvious bafflement of the presenter.
Carey married the American comedian Nick Cannon in 2008 and they produced twin boys before he filed for divorce just over a year ago.
In Australia it is being said that Packer courted Carey because, as he tries to build his business in Hollywood and Las Vegas, he craves some of her international stardust to rub off on his broad but dull shoulders.
As for Carey, who has sold 200 million records but hasn’t had a hit for many years, it is said that she may have taken a similarly hard-headed view: that she might need a new revenue stream to finance her grotesquely lavish life-style.
Of course, despite what the cynics say, it might even just be love.